Nobody could ever accuse Tim Burton of underproductivity. The past decade has seen him not only direct seven feature films but step into the music video game as well. Most directors inclined to do music videos begin there in order to transition to full-fledged movies, but Burton has, to put it mildly, never hewn to tradition. At the top of this post, you can watch his very first music video, produced in 2006 for the song “Bones” by post-punk revivalists The Killers. Featuring model Devon Aoki and 90210 star Michael Steger, the video shows off Burton’s sensibilities both by plundering the history of ickily thrilling and slyly transgressive cinema — pieces of Lolita, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Jason and the Argonauts appear — and by making much thematic and aesthetic use of the human skeleton. Most of its action takes place in an early-sixties desert drive-in theater gone to seed, which seems to me the ideal venue in which to screen Burton’s features.
The imaginative auteur’s second and most recent music video came out just this past September. Working again in the service of The Killers, Burton dreamed up another piece of haunted whimsy for their song “Here With Me”. In it, a black-clad, serious-eyed adolescent boy — a Burtonian archetype if ever there was one — steals and makes a companion of a wax mannequin modeled after his favorite B-movie actress. Fans can thrill to the fact that, to fill the role of this B-movie actress, in comes Winona Ryder, star of the beloved Burton collaborations Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. Ryder has led a career filled with its share of both B- and A-movies, but to which of those levels do Burton’s rise? Neither, it would seem, or perhaps both at once, or, even more likely, to the liminal state in between — a hard-to-define psychological space, both Burton’s boosters and detractors would agree, of his very own.